The Malik Report
by George Malik on 03/03/13 at 09:35 PM ET
Given fans' reactions to an exchange at the very end of Red Wings coach Mike Babcock's press conference, conducted after the Wings' 2-1 shootout loss to Chicago--as I happened to mention on Twitter--you'd think that Mike Babcock signed his epitaph.
97.1 the Ticket's Mike Stone asked Babcock if he'd thought about placing Tomas Tatar and Joakim Andersson alongside Pavel Datsyuk (instead of Justin Abdelkader and Danny Cleary), and Babcock simply said, "No...Who else? See you guys," ending his presser.
Now I'm a Wings fan, too, and I'm wondering whether Babcock's simply giving Danny Cleary the rope with which to either save his spot on this year's team, to give Justin Abdelkader an honest chance to earn a top-six spot as a "net front guy," and whether he simply feels that Tomas Tatar and Joakim Andersson (who played the least amount of time of any Wings players on Sunday) are better-suited to playing together...
But the anti-Babcock crowd, the fans who believe that the team will simply be better served if its top line consists of Tatar-Andersson-and-Gustav Nyquist and that the team should replace Jimmy Howard with Petr Mrazek, and just about every other Wings fan who's dissatisfied with the team's 10-8-and-4 record have seized upon this comment, suggesting that it's proof that the post-Lidstrom Wings' struggles to find an identity, the team's inconsistency and every other problem, perhaps injuries included, can be blamed upon the coach.
As a human being, never mind a Red Wings fan, I don't believe in blind faith. I believe that true and strong faith in anything accommodates doubts, questions and dissent, because if you really believe in a deity, a cause or even a hockey team, your faith will survive those doubts, questions and out-and-out dissent.
But I don't understand the out-and-out hate being directed at the man who's very openly stated that he's adapting his coaching strategies to "problem solve" and reinforce positives given his dramatic changes in personnel, a man who's brought in Tom Renney to help ensure that there are different voices being heard from behind the bench and that the message was new and better instead of stale, and a man who's very openly stated that he's thrilled with the contributions of Tatar, Andersson, Emmerton, Lashoff, Smith, Mrazek, etc., and a man who's benching Ian White for the sake of "letting the kids play."
I sure as hell think that the power play is crap in no small part because the coaching staff seems to refuse to understand that placing Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk and Damien Brunner on the same unit does nothing if all of them spend their time trying to funnel passes back to Niklas Kronwall.
I don't understand why the coach is so damn stubborn about his lines and defensive pairings.
But I also know that the coaching staff and players are in this together, that it is also up to the horses to get the job done, and I know that Babcock's the man who spends a Chris Chelios-like 4 to 6 hours sleeping and the other 18 to 20 hours of his day coaching. The same's true for Tom Renney and Bill Peters, and the coaching staff's doing their damnedest to bring what is still a very young, very banged-up and very fragile team around.
I don't agree with everything Babcock does, and sometimes I complain about his decisions and question the hell out of them, but I trust him, too.
And he coaches a team of 23 players who can't or won't seem to score more than one goal than their opponent and then sit on their hands, never mind the lead, of late. That issue is up to the Zetterbergs, Datsyuks, Kronwalls, and yes, the Clearys, Abdelakders, Anderssons and Tatars to resolve. Babcock can't score goals on his own, folks.
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The Malik Report is a destination for all things Red Wings-related. I offer biased, perhaps unprofessional-at-times and verbose coverage of my favorite team, their prospects and developmental affiliates. I've joined the Kukla's Korner family with five years of blogging under my belt, and I hope you'll find almost everything you need to follow your Red Wings at a place where all opinions are created equal and we're all friends, talking about hockey and the team we love to follow.